On Starting Somewhere addresses the beginning phases of an entrepreneurial life, before success. As designers and entrepreneurs our lives are made up of questions and experiments, successes and failures. But what drives us to first choose that path, and then to continue down it despite the hardship? There are endless accounts of what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, but what about those years during which we know only failures, it can feel like we're doing everything wrong while we perceive others to have all the answers? On Starting Somewhere is an account of this phase of my own career, what I have learned and why I keep going. Release date May 19, 2014 on amazon
It sometimes feels indulgent to step away from work, but in the end we have to turn ‘off’ sometimes. We have to revitalize. There is a misconception across many industries, and pervasive in the startup world, that the more you work the more dedicated you are. The less you sleep the more passionate you are. Like I’ve said, I am not fully functional without my sleep, so if I am really thinking of what is best for my business and for myself I will force myself under the covers. It also seems to me that if we are really working all the time, we might just be terribly disorganized. There are most definitely exceptions to this rule, and I have known deadlines to keep me working around the clock. But I would never make a habit of it, and I definitely don’t consider it a badge of honor.
In between all of this work, there are the moments when we have to be out in the world exposed to inspiration. Without taking in information from the outside world, our internal monologue becomes self-centric and unrelatable to others. Business ideas that don’t connect with the public are not worth a whole lot. Similarly, most artists feel satisfaction only once they’ve made a connection with others through their work. Before establishing this connection, it is a lonely place. A business without customers is lonely, as is a leader without followers. The more that we understand of the world around us the more convincing our argument can be to get people behind our cause.
I especially love cross-disciplinary discussions because the world has a way of leading many of us to the same conclusion at the same moment in time which we than express through a wide variety of media. The thoughts in this book, for example, relate to thoughts that have been trickling out into the world recently in conversations, various arts and writing, which I think has propelled the urgency of these words. It is a conversation that is happening right now, and the transparency of my rhetoric is only to point out the fact that we have developed this engrained sense of immediacy in our commentary. If we join the conversation, we can find connection, and that is the ultimate satisfaction for the designer, the artist, and the entrepreneur alike.
Many creative thinkers find this kind of connection difficult without using their work as a conversational tool or vessel. Relating to the humanness in us and around us, we find people who relate to the work we produce. Until first experiencing this recognition, it can feel like a very vulnerable act to produce creative work. But in the end, once we take that risk we satisfy a visceral need for expression that when suppressed can cause all kinds of unhappiness. Once released, offers a strong sense of empowerment.
While that soliloquy might resonate more with the pure artists, starting a business has much the same effect. It begins when we identify something within ourselves that leads us to seek something more, usually not in the material world, but in the immaterial. It is scary to think of taking that leap, but if we deny it we end up feeling a sense of loss for something we never had.